Instead of shouting from the rooftops in opposition, Central Otago’s mayor says he will focus his energy on making sure local concerns, particularly from the rural sector, about the Government’s Three Waters changes are listened to and acted upon.
The Government announced last week it would press ahead with its controversial reform of water management, despite widespread rumblings of discontent from councils.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the case for change was too compelling to ignore.
Four publicly owned entities would be created to manage drinking water, wastewater and stormwater.
Water management is at present in the hands of the country’s 67 councils, and several have expressed grave concerns about the Three Waters reforms, calling them an appropriation of local assets by central government.
A working group, comprised of local government, iwi and water industry experts, would be set up to help design the new organisation.
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan reacted to the announcement saying it was a disappointment but not a surprise.
Everyone agreed changes were needed but the Government had completely failed to explain why it believed reform was needed, and far less why its model was the best one, Mr Cadogan said.
That combination of an information vacuum and rampant misinformation has led to an entirely predictable and understandable public backlash, he said.
“There is much temptation to shout from the highest rooftop about the unfairness of this outcome, but there will be plenty of mayors doing that, I am sure.
“However, given the clear stand the Government has taken on this matter, I question whether doing so, while expressing what many in Central Otago undoubtedly feel, will serve us well in the long run.”
Mr Cadogan said it was good there would be further discussions around some of the concerns through a working group and there would be smaller council representation on that group.
“There is still a lot of work that can be done to try to influence much-needed changes to the final outcome, especially from a rural perspective such as ours, and that is where I intend to put my focus and energy.
“The reasons for change is too compelling to ignore.”
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said the Government’s announcement felt like a “knee-jerk reaction”.
Councillors and staff would now need to consider the “extreme” move by the Government and the detail of what was being presented, Mr Boult said.
“Obviously, we will need to work with Government to reach a way forward and I will be discussing this with my fellow elected members to agree how we influence this ongoing process to deliver the best outcomes for our local communities.”
The Water Services Entities Bill is expected to be introduced into Parliament in early December, and the new system is expected to be in operation by July 2024.